“Transgender” is an umbrella term that describes people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Some people may take steps to better align their sex with their gender using hormones and surgery.
Labour unequivocally supports the proposed reforms to the GRA.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) governs how transgender people can have their identity legally recognised. This was groundbreaking in its time – it’s now seriously out of date and needs reform.
At the moment, trans people have to endure a long and demeaning process to ‘prove’ their gender identity. It’s not just distressing, it’s complex, costly and inaccessible to many trans people. The process is so inaccessible that just 12% of trans people in the UK have a GRC.
The changes were not proposed by trans groups, but by the governmental Women and Equalities Select Committee. They evaluated the GRC application process and found it to be ‘bureaucratic’, ‘expensive’ and ‘humiliating.’ At present a gender recognition panel has the power to approve, or deny, an application for a gender recognition certificate. The panel do not even meet the person applying. In England and Wales, if they’re married, they also need the consent of their spouse before they can proceed.
We recognise that some people have concerns and questions. However the majority of these are based on misinformation. Here we will dispel some myths about the GRA reforms.
Myth 1 – Violent Men Will Self Identify as Women to Enter Women’s Shelters and Rape Crisis Services
There are four important points here.
- One is that despite being a common misconception, the proposed reforms do not affect the Equality Act of 2010, which makes legal provision for the need for single sex spaces.
- Single sex services can treat people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment differently, or exclude them completely, but only where the action taken is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.For example a female only domestic violence refuge may provide a separate service to a trans woman if it can be shown there is a detriment to other service users from including the trans woman as part of the regular service. The only obligation is to consider alternative services to offer; trans service users should not just be turned away.
- The second is that these providers are already supporting trans women. Both Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis do so, and have issued statements supporting the proposed GRA reforms. As have a coalition of women’s rights organisations in Scotland, where services have been open to trans women for a decade.
- Finally, from a safety perspective, each person who wants to access these services undergoes a risk assessment. Both to gauge the person’s needs and ‘to calculate the risk to other residents and staff.’ This is essential to protect everyone; for example the refuge might want to prevent an abusive lesbian from entering when her abused female partner is inside, or it may exclude a woman with a history of violence and instability.
Myth 2 – Won’t men just say they are women to access women’s spaces?
Obtaining a GRC requires a ‘legal declaration’ and lying on that declaration is a matter of perjury. The offence is punishable by up to two years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. Lots of other countries, including Ireland, have already reformed this process without an increase in criminal activity.
Myth 3 – Letting trans people use the bathroom or locker room matching their gender identity is dangerous to women
Trans women, without a GRC and without surgery, are already legally allowed to access the bathrooms of their gender identity under the Equality Act of 2010. The proposed reforms have zero impact on this fact. Most of the things people are discussing now are already established and protected by law.
“I know there is a lot of anxiety associated with this issue, but it seems to be based on fear rather than facts. Given this, it is really disheartening to see so many states (and now our federal government) choose to treat people who are transgender with what looks like hatred,” – Maine Human Rights Commission Executive Director Amy Sneirson
In America, there has not been a single incident of men exploiting trans access to bathrooms to commit violence against women. There have however, been multiple incidences of violence against trans folk, (70% of respondents to this UCLA survey reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms) and cis-women who were did not look feminine enough for their attacker’s liking.
Myth 4 – Self Identification is New and We Don’t Know the Implications
Self Identification gender laws – i.e. being able to obtain a GRC with a self-declaration of gender – is not a new thing. It is in place in many countries, such as Denmark, Austria and Ireland. There has been no increase in sexual assault. Access to rape and domestic violence services is *already* based on self-identification, not whether the person has a GRC, and is not affected by the proposed reforms.
Myth 5 – Male Sex Offenders will Identify as Women to Enter Women’s Prisons
There are a number of responses to this.
Firstly, the proposed reforms do not affect prisoners. In prisons, like with sports, different rules apply.
Senior prison management conduct a case conference to review the individual circumstances, in consultation with medical and other experts. Case conferences are told to watch out for evidence that the offender’s decision to transition is related to their sentence length or a way of gaining access to future victims.
In effect, each decision is made on a case by case basis with careful risk assessment.
Under the proposed reforms, prisons will continue to do risk assessments that take account of previous and instant offences against women when deciding whether or not a person assigned male at birth will be accommodated in the female estate.
There is also provision for any female prisoner – trans or not – to be housed in a men’s prison if she’s deemed especially dangerous. It is also important to note that the women’s estate has protocols for safely managing many non-trans women who have convictions for violence against women, including murder and sexual assault.
These fears were stoked by a false study, published by a fringe pressure group, claiming that 40% of trans inmates were sex offenders. This has been debunked by both the MOJ and multiple fact checkers. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42221629
Myth 6 – Children Will Be Put at Risk
Reform to the Gender Recognition Act will not change the legal rights of trans children. The minimum age for legal gender recognition is 18, aligned with the full rights and responsibilities of adult citizenship, and the Government has no intention of changing this. The age for accessing medical NHS gender identity treatment is decided on by the NHS, not the Gender Recognition Act, and surgical treatment is not available to people under 18. Cross-sex hormones are available to those aged 16 and above under guidance.
Minors under 18 can receive hormone blocking treatment to delay the onset of puberty, this done under strict medical supervision and whilst receiving ongoing psychological support.
It’s a safe treatment that has been used for many years to delay puberty in children when they start too early and is entirely reversible. Trans minors who have hormone blocking treatment have better outcomes as adults and lower suicide attempts than those who are forced to go through puberty in the gender they were assigned at birth.
Myth 7 – Men Will Be Able to Self Identify as Women to Compete Against Women in Sports
Sports associations have their own rules and regulations for trans participation, which are not affected by the proposed GRA reforms.